The Florida Fire Frogs, formerly the Brevard County Manatees, will be entering their inaugural season in the Florida State League with a talented roster. The Atlanta Braves ended their partnership with the Carolina Mudcats and decided to bring the Manatees to Central Florida at the old Houston Astros spring training facility.
The inaugural roster will feature eight players on the Atlanta Braves top-30 prospects, according to MLB.com with 19-year old outfielder Ronald Acuna being the highest ranked player (8).
Left-handed pitcher Luiz Gohara (11), right-handed pitcher Touki Toussaint (12), infielder Austin Riley (13), left-handed pitcher Ricardo Sanchez (20), catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson (24), left-handed pitcher Drew Harrington (26), and outfielder Braxton Davidson (29) round out the eight ranked prospects.
In 42 games between Rome and GCL, Acuna batted .312/.392/.429 with 4 homers and 19 runs batted in, but missed a lot of playing time due to injuries. While Acuna was dealing with injuries, Ray-Patrick Didder showcased his defensive skills in center field. Didder and Acuna could split time in center and right field while Alex Jackson, Braxton Davidson, and Tyler Nesloney platoon in left field. It should be a great defensive outfield this season for the Fire Frogs.
Austin Riley will attempt to build on his second half last season as the everyday third baseman for the Fire Frogs. He had a .929 OPS with 17 home runs for Rome. While Carlos Castro is the only first baseman on the roster, Davidson could see some playing time there because of a crowded outfield. In 84 games for Rome, Castro batted .266/.301/.508 with 17 homers and 57 runs batted in.
Touki Toussaint, the only right hander in the Fire Frogs rotation, struggled early last season but after making some improvements thanks to Rome pitching coach Dan Myer. Toussaint would finish his 2016 campaign with 110 strikeouts and a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts.
The rest of the Braves roster will feature players from the Rome Braves South Atlantic championship team such as Corbin Clouse, Josh Graham, Chase Johnson-Mullins, Taylor Lewis, Sanchez, Devan Watts and Jacob Webb on the mound, with Jonathan Morales, Wigberto Nevarez, Alejandro Salazar, and Tyler Nelsony in the field and will represent seven different countries - Brazil, Haiti, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Aruba.